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The Spice Must Flow
January 25, 2009 12:43 AM   Subscribe

(Some links NSFW) Any down on their luck stoner is familiar with so called, "legal bud" Herbs of all kinds have been marketed online to the connectionless or legally restricted that offered a marijuana like high without the legal consequences. Everyone knows they are all scams. It might surprise you, that some were not. Commonly sold under the names Spice or Zohai, mixtures of herbs sprayed with synthetic cannabinoid substances such as HU-210 or JWH-018 have been available online for at least the past four years.

This thriving grey market has recently come to a grinding halt.

Spice was listed as containing a varying mix of herbal ingredients, some of which could plausibly offer a psychoactive experience. The government in Frankfurt was not convinced that the listed ingredients could account for the reported THC like effects. A study was commissioned that revealed the presence of an unlisted ingredient, a synthetic cannabinoid.

Several nations were quick to enact bans. In the United States, a shipment of spice was intercepted by customs agents. Tests of the material confirmed the presence of HU-210, which is illegal under the Analog Act.

Spice, and similar products, in a matter of weeks have been made near impossible to find. This is a rare, sweeping victory in the War on Drugs.

Will these synthetic cannabinoids never be heard from again, despite potential promise in medical research? Will they be demonized out of our medical culture like their mother drug?

Will other individuals find a way to stealthily market similar compounds to those just looking for fun?

Time will tell.
posted by furiousxgeorge (53 comments total) 7 users marked this as a favorite

 
Probably some "Up on their luck" stoners knew about this as well.

So I've heard.

Dude
posted by vapidave at 1:42 AM on January 25, 2009


I tried Zohai a couple weeks before the shit started to hit the fan, maybe it was because I was "up on my luck" at the time, but it didn't do much for me.

Never got a chance to try Spice.

Regardless of how well they worked, I still find it fascinating that they were so available on the open market for so long and attracted so little attention until they were quickly banned.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 1:46 AM on January 25, 2009


Somewhat similar to the "research chemicals" open online trade in the US stopped in 2004. Or has it?

Spice, and similar products, in a matter of weeks have been made near impossible to find. This is a rare, sweeping victory in the War on Drugs.

Duh. These products were meant to mimic, or be reminiscent of, a very popular illegal drug, for consumers wanting a convenient 'legal' option. Why would they still be traded after their raison d'etre is gone? The "mother drug" shows no signs of disappearing.
posted by daksya at 2:01 AM on January 25, 2009 [3 favorites]


I thought the problem with being 'down on your luck' was that you don't have money? Finding weed isn't so much the problem as being able to afford it. Most of the stoners I know would go boil their steamroller and scrape their bowls before they go spend the very last of their money on something with unknown usefulness.
posted by dunkadunc at 2:04 AM on January 25, 2009 [1 favorite]


Victory. Heh.
posted by stonepharisee at 2:05 AM on January 25, 2009 [2 favorites]



I thought the problem with being 'down on your luck' was that you don't have money? Finding weed isn't so much the problem as being able to afford it. Most of the stoners I know would go boil their steamroller and scrape their bowls before they go spend the very last of their money on something with unknown usefulness.


Down on your luck in this case means you can't find anyone (for the shy stoners among us) or you have to face a piss test for employment or legal reasons.

Spice posed no drug test problem, and was easy to find online. If you looked around you could find plenty of trustworthy testimonials that said it got you high in a way comparable to weed too.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 2:10 AM on January 25, 2009


If you looked around you could find plenty of trustworthy testimonials that said it got you high in a way comparable to weed too.

I've always wondered why anyone would be swayed by those testimonials. After all, you could find similar testimonials for the crappy fake pot. Unless you actually know someone who smoked it personally, it's hard not to believe that the testimonials aren't the work of the people selling the stuff.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 2:34 AM on January 25, 2009


The Analog Act is the most ridiculous drug law this country has ever passed, and that's saying a lot. It basically says "we can ban any substance that people enjoy getting high on, as long as it's remotely similar to something we've already banned in any way, without having to ban the specific substance, instead we just have to say this act applies to it". They banned research chemicals, which refers to basically the entire corpus of PiKHAL and TiKHAL that weren't already banned (the 2C- family, 5-MeO-DMT, etc.), under the same act.

I always wanted to try this stuff, but I never got around to it. Guess now I never will. If it was really anything like pot, I probably wouldn't have liked it anyway, though. Pot just makes me really uncomfortable these days. Did anyone here smoke it? Was it really anything like pot? Was it different, but could still be said to have "worked"?

On preview:
I've always wondered why anyone would be swayed by those testimonials. After all, you could find similar testimonials for the crappy fake pot. Unless you actually know someone who smoked it personally, it's hard not to believe that the testimonials aren't the work of the people selling the stuff.

There was a lot of discussion among Internet stoners about this stuff, and the consensus seemed to be that it really was something different than the crappy fake pot. Besides, the crappy fake pot testimonials were always really obviously fake, like "I lost 25 pounds in 2 months with the Anorexitron!" fake, but they seemed more real for this stuff.
posted by DecemberBoy at 2:38 AM on January 25, 2009 [4 favorites]



I've always wondered why anyone would be swayed by those testimonials. After all, you could find similar testimonials for the crappy fake pot. Unless you actually know someone who smoked it personally, it's hard not to believe that the testimonials aren't the work of the people selling the stuff.


When I say trustworthy, I mean trustworthy to the cynical eye of someone who has lived through years of watching internet scams of every variety.

I'm not going to point at any specific places, because I've bought one of these products and the legality is dubious now so I don't want to point anywhere.

I'll keep it at this, if you went to a message board dedicated to drug discussion that you frequented often you would see people you trust saying this stuff works.

Remember, it did work, government studies have confirmed it, word of mouth did it way quicker.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 2:50 AM on January 25, 2009


He who controls the Spice controls the universe...

Hey, somebody had to say it!
posted by wastelands at 3:10 AM on January 25, 2009 [14 favorites]


Will other individuals find a way to stealthily market similar compounds to those just looking for fun?

I've heard tale of the open sale of "Mexican Cactus Pot-Pourri" . . . a perfect gift for granny, perhaps?
posted by protorp at 3:15 AM on January 25, 2009


I borrowed a bit of Spice off a mate a few months ago after he bought it on a lark. The stuff does work, but it's not really satisfactory - the best way to describe it is like being stoned, without the fun. There's a mild sedative effect, and it bizarrely provoked the munchies in me...but it's hard to tell how much of the effect was stimulated versus how much my body was just "going along" with the feeling.

Spice itself smells nice, but the taste is utterly horrible. If you're stuck for a high, you're really better off spending the time trying to find the real stuff rather than the alternatives.
posted by sektah at 3:43 AM on January 25, 2009


Fact is, a product was sold as "herbal" which contained an undeclared synthetic active ingredient. Moreover, that ingredient was several times more potent than THC. Excuse me, but what are the food and drug safety authorities for, if it is not to stamp down on this sort of thing? Or do you want companies to follow suit and add God-knows-what to their products?! Forget the "War of Drugs" angle, this is an easy consumer protection matter.
posted by Skeptic at 4:01 AM on January 25, 2009 [8 favorites]


PiKHAL and TiKHAL are just amazing- my roommate had copies.
posted by dunkadunc at 4:13 AM on January 25, 2009


PiKHAL and TiKHAL are just amazing- my roommate had copies.

The second half of each (which are the important bits - all the syntheses of the different chemicals) are available free online from Erowid, with Shulgin's permission. Alexander Shulgin is an amazing man - he's almost singlehandedly responsible for bringing MDMA to the masses, for one thing.
posted by DecemberBoy at 4:27 AM on January 25, 2009


Echoing sektah's comments, the stuff comes in handy if you're "down on your luck" and unable to find the real deal.
In Japan it's difficult for most newbie foreigners to break the language barrier and/or earn the trust necessary to procure the real deal, so most opt for the easy way out, which is asking for it at any headshop.
It alters the perception, but doesn't taste as good, and don't expect any of the sudden artistic insights that you'd gain from the real thing either. Additionally, the comedown is pretty harsh (a lot of people get really tired and feel like ass the next day). The user also tends to have to use more of it faster to get any real use out of it, so it doesn't last as long.
As far as safety goes, if you're worried about your job or being caught with it by the police, it probably doesn't show up in testing, but my guess is that even the most half-assed law enforcement official would use it as probable cause to question, search and probably detain you.
Japanese police are always looking to shake down foreigners (even though Japanese citizens are 10 times more likely to break the law, as foreigners don't blend in and are less likely to get away with anything), and getting caught with the real deal means definite jail time and will probably lead to one losing one's job since the Japanese police can hold you for questioning without laying charges and not allow you to contact anyone for weeks(?) at a time. For the latter reason alone many foreigners don't really bother with the real deal there (if they bother with it at all), opting instead to change their tastes for the fake stuff.
Pricewise, 1g of real, good green will run you about 5000yen, so many prefer to get the lowest grade (Spice Gold) for about half that to satisfy any immediate cravings. any grade of spice higher than that (Spice Diamond for example) will run you close to 9000yen for 1g, so what's the point? If someone wants get lifted that badly they usually bite the bullet, take the chance and try to get the real thing.
It's interesting, though that most of the headshops in Japan will not have it displayed; one has to ask for "spice" by name to be presented with it from behind the counter. And even then, Although there may be people smoking cigarettes in the shop, one is allowed to buy it, open it and skin up in the shop, but has to go outside to actually smoke it...
posted by tbonicus at 4:33 AM on January 25, 2009 [1 favorite]


Back in the mid 90s I discovered some of this "herbal weed" in a head shop. I don't know what the hell was in it exactly, it was a bit minty and a bit like smoking tea. And guess what--it worked. I would fire up a cigarette of the stuff, and have a subtle but undeniable buzz for a good fifteen or twenty minutes. It was a really happy buzz, too, no downside to it at all. But it doesn't last too long, and I'm sure smoking a whole pouch a day or whatever isn't terribly healthy.
posted by zardoz at 4:36 AM on January 25, 2009




Fact is, a product was sold as "herbal" which contained an undeclared synthetic active ingredient. Moreover, that ingredient was several times more potent than THC.


I'm right with you on the fact that this is exactly the type of thing they should be looking out for, the entire business model depended on hiding the synthetic drug behind the herbal label. I just don't accept the "several times more potent" thing.

I don't know how they come up with their potency numbers, but it sure as hell got me less high than some very good bud, so I roll my eyes there.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 4:38 AM on January 25, 2009


This is a rare, sweeping victory in the War on Drugs.

Yeah. For the wrong side.
posted by atrazine at 4:47 AM on January 25, 2009 [3 favorites]


Internet stoners have thought for some time that there were probably synthetic cannabinoids in Spice and a few others. The consensus was that it worked but most people said it was not that great of a high. Some people had attempted their own GC/MS runs on it but it was difficult to analyze (made sticky with honey and vanilla!) and they didn't have samples of the cannabinoids to properly do it. One of the things that sort of let you knew people weren't spamming was that many reported it was quite strong, longlasting, and no fun. People also mixed their own blends of the published ingredients and found them ineffective.

The German government claimed to find JWH-018 in Spice, so who knows why the US found HU-210. Could be they're not even both actually testing the same product.

Somewhat similar to the "research chemicals" open online trade in the US stopped in 2004. Or has it?


Sites that sell GC/MS samples which are not for human consumption still exist. Many of these cannabinoids aren't considered by some vague consensus to be covered by the Analog Act (which always has an implicit "yet") and are sold. Besides JWH-018, I've heard of CP 55,940 and WIN 55,212 being available. I once had the occasion to try some 2-AG and found it to produce a mild, short-lived, but pleasant high.

Selling these as secret ingredients in an "herbal blend" is pretty unscrupulous behavior, though. Some people speculate JWH-018 could be highly carcinogenic.
posted by Sockpuppet For Naughty Things at 4:59 AM on January 25, 2009 [2 favorites]


Every pre-frankfurt thread I read was filled with the general sentiment of, "Yes, it works. But no, you are a complete moron if you think anyone could get away with selling a synthetic cannabinoid without being instantly shut down."

The effects were generally attributed to an extracted to max potency combination of the listed ingredients.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 5:18 AM on January 25, 2009


SFNT: Sites that sell GC/MS samples which are not for human consumption still exist. Many of these cannabinoids aren't considered...

Only cannabinoids? What about 5-HT2A ligands?
posted by daksya at 5:19 AM on January 25, 2009


To attain a legal high, which is also nothing like weed, I prefer to kick back with a good Scotchgard, followed by a nice glass of Listerine and some banana peels to satisfy my sweet tooth. I eat nothing of course... because that would kill my buzz.
posted by gman at 5:26 AM on January 25, 2009 [1 favorite]




The German government claimed to find JWH-018 in Spice, so who knows why the US found HU-210. Could be they're not even both actually testing the same product.


This is an interesting point, as far as I have gathered the differing strengths of Spice may have had different chemicals present.

What US Customs siezed was Spice Diamond, the strongest blend, apparently because of all the HU-210 present.

What I have heard, and would love for a Metafilter legal or scientific mind to confirm or deny, is that JWH-018 is NOT covered under the Analog Act.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 5:38 AM on January 25, 2009


Wake n bake ya'll, nice post. All one needs to find a source is - WEEDAR!
posted by winks007 at 5:44 AM on January 25, 2009


I would fire up a cigarette of the stuff, and have a subtle but undeniable buzz for a good fifteen or twenty minutes

Whoa. The buzz from walking down the hall in a college dorm lasts longer than that.

There ain't nothing like the real thing.
posted by fourcheesemac at 5:45 AM on January 25, 2009


I favorited this initially but then I read the whole thing. That should teach me to make a snap judgement. Anyway spraying some relatively innocuous (a concern of its own) herbal substance with a high potency THC analog sounds like an absolutely great thing to do, and that would be great to put into common availability much like hard liquor.

But hey that's just my opinion.
posted by nervousfritz at 7:07 AM on January 25, 2009


All one needs to find a source is - WEEDAR!

Ahh...so that's what that power is called.
Yes, then I have anti-weedar.
Thanks, winks007, for that handy bit of nomenclature.
posted by the sobsister at 7:21 AM on January 25, 2009


One nice thing about the economic downturn is that the individual states are being crushed financially and are being forced to take a harder look at the costs of guarding and feeding tens of thousands of peaceful stoners.

In fact, I thought of a nice cost-saving measure for the states. Instead of using prisons to store the stoners, just rent out a Motel 6, give each stoner their own room and plenty of food and pot. You wouldn't *need* any guards (except maybe to keep the stoners' friends away), and it'd probably be cheaper than the cost of imprisoning them. Bam, problem solved, everybody happy!
posted by jamstigator at 7:37 AM on January 25, 2009 [1 favorite]


This is a rare, sweeping victory in the War on Drugs.

I was going to accuse the OP of editorializing, but this is probably the funniest sentence I will read today.
posted by cjorgensen at 7:44 AM on January 25, 2009


This is a rare, sweeping victory in the War on Drugs.

Yeah. For the wrong side.


There is only one side to that war. Everyone else is not really fighting.
posted by nosila at 7:51 AM on January 25, 2009 [2 favorites]


I don't have any direct experience with this, but the German press has been flogging the story for weeks. Latest bit: in the absence of an EU-wide ban, some people are going over the border into Poland, buying the stuff, and bringing it back.
posted by gimonca at 7:52 AM on January 25, 2009


Making nature illegal is always the sign of an enlightened society.

Where's Bill Hicks when you need him?
posted by dbiedny at 8:10 AM on January 25, 2009 [2 favorites]


Bill Hicks is dead whether you need him or not.
posted by cjorgensen at 9:01 AM on January 25, 2009 [8 favorites]


We certainly wondered about these ads for years! Now we "know".

Question: someone offered to sell me "rolls" the other day at a dance party - clearly some drug, what was it?
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 9:21 AM on January 25, 2009


As I recall, Colette once said something along the lines of "If I can not have too many truffles, I would rather not have truffles at all."

Analogously, if you don't have access to your drug of choice, perhaps you honor it best by waiting for happier circumstances rather than grubbing after the ersatz.
posted by Joe Beese at 9:32 AM on January 25, 2009


Lupus: Ecstacy.
posted by box at 9:38 AM on January 25, 2009


Thanks, box. How disappointing.

However, I was happy to discover last year that "Hoffman's problem child" had reappeared on the underground market - even had a vial of it for the first time ever (and it's been getting on for 30 years of such experimentation)...
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 10:07 AM on January 25, 2009


I'd no more smoke fake pot than I'd eat carob.

Running out of weed is God's way of telling you it's time to vacuum and do the dishes.
posted by BitterOldPunk at 11:09 AM on January 25, 2009 [11 favorites]


Wake n bake ya'll, nice post. All one needs to find a source is - WEEDAR!

I've been trying to popularize "stonar" for a while. Anecdotally, I've heard that going to Marijuana Anonymous meetings is a great way to score.
posted by gngstrMNKY at 11:18 AM on January 25, 2009 [1 favorite]


I really have nothing against marijuana, but the lengths some people go through to get high, and the psychological addiction of a small subset of users is an awful buzzkill.

I know a fellow, in his early 60s who got busted for pot in TN. Pretty traumatic, and yeah all the overreactions of police and courts ensued, sheer insanity. He was pretty lucky (compared to some) and ended up with fines and probation/piss tests. What happened the week he got off probation? Back to smoking on a daily basis. None of the immediate family (a few daughters, and a close ex-wife) ever stopped, or seriously considered stopping. This wasn't a case of "I'm striking a blow against the unjust laws of the State", but a denial and willingness to continue to place family and property at risk in order to get high. As I said, I've no real issue with pot, in the long run for most people it is pretty benign, but that whole incident just about killed any chance of me actively caring about it too much.
posted by edgeways at 11:29 AM on January 25, 2009


I thought the problem with being 'down on your luck' was that you don't have money?

Um, somebody hasn't properly studied the Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers comix: "...dope will get you through times of no money better than money will get you through times of no dope..."
posted by Mental Wimp at 12:30 PM on January 25, 2009 [2 favorites]


ANNOUNCEMENT:

UNDER THE ANALOGUE ACT WE WILL BE ADDING MUSIC, LOVE, AND HAPPINESS TO THE LIST OF SCHEDULE 1 SUBSTANCES

PLEASE BRING ANY YOU WISH TO SURRENDER TO THE AUTHORITIES TO THE FAILURE PILE.
posted by tehloki at 1:03 PM on January 25, 2009 [1 favorite]


This wasn't a case of "I'm striking a blow against the unjust laws of the State", but a denial and willingness to continue to place family and property at risk in order to get high.

I understand your sentiment. We all know somebody who should probably smoke a little less and get off the couch a little more. But that doesn't make the drug laws any less unjust. 775,137 US arrests for possession alone in 2007. And those people are then ineligible for federal financial aid, will find it difficult to find a job, etc.

And there's a far more harmful and dangerous element to drug laws that is reflected in your feelings. The idea that only those rights that are "essential" to life should be protected. There's always going to be somebody saying that you don't need to do this or that, so why put your liberty at risk by breaking the law? The drug war is essentially a war on cognitive liberty, and the idea of freedom of thought.

So, I'm not fighting this war for Floyd from True Romance, I'm fighting it for the idea that my body is my own.
posted by formless at 1:05 PM on January 25, 2009 [7 favorites]


This wasn't a case of "I'm striking a blow against the unjust laws of the State", but a denial and willingness to continue to place family and property at risk in order to get high.

Because you say so?
posted by stinkycheese at 3:17 PM on January 25, 2009


PLUR!
posted by P.o.B. at 3:42 PM on January 25, 2009 [1 favorite]


It's always seemed strange to me: you can legally own a small arsenal in the US, but you can't grow a plant in your backyard.
posted by stinkycheese at 4:41 PM on January 25, 2009 [1 favorite]


It is beautiful how Cannabis exists in such a delicate middle ground on so many different levels... perhaps if we can come to respect the fine particular balances in our own lives we can learn to appreciate the subtle sociological benefits of the plant itself above the ubiquitous crime of excess it has come to represent.
posted by flyinghamster at 4:56 PM on January 25, 2009


Marijuana Anonymous

Oh Jesus. Seriously? That really exists? And people actually go to the meetings and allow themselves to be convinced that they're "addicted" to pot and need The Power Of Jebus (sorry, "a higher power") to quit? These people need to watch the Bob Saget scene in Half Baked: "I sucked dick for cocaine. You ever suck dick for marijuana?" Here's how you quit smoking pot: you stop smoking it.
posted by DecemberBoy at 7:06 PM on January 25, 2009 [1 favorite]


When I hear "synthetic canniboid," I hear "all the benefits of marijuana, but doesn't get the user high." Won't bee good for the "medical marijuana" people.
posted by Ironmouth at 8:14 PM on January 25, 2009


DecemberBoy writes "These people need to watch the Bob Saget scene in Half Baked: 'I sucked dick for cocaine. You ever suck dick for marijuana?' Here's how you quit smoking pot: you stop smoking it."

Now there is the kind of unnuanced argument I've come to expect from the media: You can't be addicted to a substance that you haven't blown someone to obtain. Kinda sexist/homophobic to boot too.
posted by Mitheral at 8:24 PM on January 25, 2009


Now there is the kind of unnuanced argument I've come to expect from the media: You can't be addicted to a substance that you haven't blown someone to obtain. Kinda sexist/homophobic to boot too.

Actually, what happens is the Dave Chappelle character goes to a meeting of some 12-step narcotics program, and when he gets up and tells everyone that he's "addicted to pot", all the people who were/are addicted to actual addictive drugs laugh at him, and then Saget hits him with the line (fun fact: on cable, they change it to "suck feet"). It's a succinct ridiculing of the idea of marijuana as a Dangerous Addictive Drug as propagated by the government, etc. The idea of being "addicted" to marijuana is ridiculous. I was high on marijuana for every waking minute of around age 15 to age 25, and then I decided I didn't like it anymore and quit.
posted by DecemberBoy at 9:23 AM on January 26, 2009 [1 favorite]


Is anyone really having that hard a time finding weed? Or... I'm trying to figure out the demographic here. Potheads that are afraid of failing a UA who don't know about Urine Luck? People who want to get high but are afraid of breaking the law?

I tried Salvia once. It was by far the most unpleasant thing I've ever done to induce a state within myself other than sober. Awful, awful, awful. I'll never touch legal stuff again!
posted by Bageena at 7:13 PM on January 27, 2009


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